Note: this story still requires a few edits, but if you do read it, I hope you like it, or at least understand the intent. It's a "who-is-god" and "who's-side-is-god-actually-on" type of story.

It is your time

Always the blood, and still more. The soldier coughed as she did her best to bandage the bleeding leg. She knew she had little time before loosing consciousness, and then death. The booby-trap did its job well and the two of them fell instantly. The largest piece of shrapnel hit a major artery in her left leg, and another, slightly smaller piece pierced her lung. Her only hope was to stay awake until help showed.

Surprisingly, her prisoner had merely been dazed.

“You are injured!”

“Yea, no shit, asshole,” she replied to his broken English, coughing up still more blood. “I kind of figured that.”

The prisoner sat observing his captor. He showed no concern, at least not outwardly. In fact, if anything, he was eminently calm, perhaps owing to the thought she would soon die and he would be free.

He eyed the knife in her utility belt. He would need it to cut the plastic tie around his wrist, once she was dead.

“Release me and I will take care of your injuries.”

Stafford finished tying the bandage around her leg, took a deep but pained breath and carefully checked out the window. Someone must have heard the explosion. She just hoped it would be the right person and not her prisoner’s friends.

“Release me and you will be rewarded. God will reward...”

“Shut the hell up,” she shouted, pointing an unsteady rifle at her prisoner. Stafford could only think about how much she hated his type. Zealot! Secure in the right of all their wrongs. A more extreme version of a few of the men she dated back home – a brief but tired giggle.

Stafford lowered her weapon. It was taking too much energy keeping it pointed.

“You are a woman in a man’s war. You do not belong here. You need to...”

“Yeah,” she laughed. “It sucks to be tied up by a woman.” A quick side-glance at the window.

She looked back into her prisoner’s eyes; cold and of single purpose. “Zealot,” she exhaled.

“No! I do not think I am.” He sat back against the wall. “But from your perspective, maybe... Tell me, what do you fight for?”

Stafford knew better than to waste her strength in a discussion over matters to which she had made up her mind long ago. To her, religion, if not God, was the route of all evil in this world. There would always be someone around to insist his way was the right way, and he would eventually back up that claim.

“I fight to free the people your scum like to...” She stopped herself. Damn it, she thought. Get a mental grip. Don’t get drawn in. He’s a zealot. Some zealot’s, like this one, are very smart, and they’ll look for any weakness. There’s no need to show him more than blood.

“Shut the fuck up.”

The prisoner smiled, and nodded. “I understand. You believe I can’t be trusted. You believe that I will do what I must to kill you, but you are wrong. I only fight to get your people to leave my land.”

“You’re not on your land,” she shouted. Damn! Note to self! Shouting hurts. “You’re not on your land,” she repeated in a calmer voice.

“This isn’t your country. Wasn’t yours before. You’re here to impose. Enslave!” Stafford leaned forward, wincing in pain. “Why am I here? I’m here because some ass in my government thinks it’s a good idea. I’m here because those people you ruled before have that tiny bit more freedom to choose.”

“What if they did not want the choice?” The prisoner smiled.

“You’ve never given them the option. Those who try and take it, ...” Stafford sat back and did not finish the sentence.

It seemed like several hours passed, but it was really only ten minutes of pained silence. Stafford did her best to stay awake in hopes that someone would come and help her. It was getting more and more difficult with the loss of blood. The shrapnel in her lungs made breathing excruciating, and her prisoner’s constant gaze made it unbearable.

She had tried to get him to stop looking at her, even threatening his life, and she was too tired to blindfold him.

Why is it that the leaders, when they have a bone to pick, always send away the youngest and brightest to fight and die for freedom! Stafford only turned 27 last week. Her officers threw her a private party. Dupres even pulled out his private stash of Canadian Whiskey. Dupres was 29.

She tried to get get him to put it away, but Dupres was a stubborn Quebecois. Dupres bought that bottle when he turned 20, and he swore he would open that bottle on the birth of his first child. Since he was single and with the only people he cared about outside his family, he would be damned if he did not get a taste of that liquid gold before getting killed by some freak.

It was some of the worst whiskey the three of them had ever tasted, and Dupres admitted as much. It’s strange how things work out, she thought to herself, because it was equally the best. Together, along with Thorold and Enger, the four of them spent that evening pledging allegiances to God, Queen, each other, to hockey and the Ottawa Senators, unless of course Montreal was playing and then all bets were off for Dupres since he was a Canadiennes fan.

They swore allegiances to Thorold’s five-year-old daughter Mary, who’s picture he pulled at any opportune moment. Engers’ poodle Piddle also came up. Piddle was so called due to a bladder that became all too leaky when excited.

OK, Engers is gay, but you wouldn’t know to look at him. Engers is more of a gay man’s man, Stafford thought to herself. It’s his partner Joe who actually wanted the animal, and whenever Engers brought out that picture of Piddle, Joe naturally was there too.

Fucking lucky Engers, she thought to herself. He got himself a severe foot infection after a minor cut and was taken out of duty rotation for a few days. Stafford looked down at the bodies of Dupres and Thorold, nearly cried, and looked back at her prisoner; no, she would not want to be Engers either.

She was tired, and aware her prisoner knew it.

“Stand by me, and I’ll stand by you to the last breath,” she whispered.

“What?” The prisoner looked confused for the first time, though perhaps because she slurred her speech.

“What can you trust in a zealot!” She looked back down at her men. “What are his motives?”

There was a pause when the prisoner thought he was to answer. “I don’t understand. God is...”

Stafford nodded. “God is the motive. Funny thing about god... no... funny thing is the zealot...” Stafford was tiring. “...the believer... says... he works for the will of his god. He has a set plan, the believer and his god. Why does the plan always change!”

“Why is it that... god... what you promise,” she said while looking straight into his eyes, “one day is god’s will... tomorrow you prove it was not, through god’s word.”

The prisoner tilted his head. He was quite aware now of her weakness. It would not be long before he would be free at last. “I don’t understand.”

“Tell me that god will reward me if I release you!”

Noticing a chance, the prisoner leaned forward, smiled and nodded. “Yes! You will be rewarded many times. You will be blessed, and you...”

“Tell me that no harm will come to me. God will protect me.

“Yes, yes. It is his word...”

“Or just yours,” she replied.

After a second of realization, the prisoner furled his brow. “You mock me.”

“No... I just don’t trust you, or anyone like you.”

She felt her leg falling asleep and shifted her weight to the other side. “You promise, by god, that you will do one thing and I’m made so happy. Tomorrow, you’ll tell me, by god, today’s promise was not by god, and by god, your promise will change.”

The prisoner looked back quizzically.

“I can’t trust one like you. What are your motives! Today, you explain one way, and tomorrow another according to what you think you’re told by...,” she hesitated.

Mark! I miss you! Why the hell did you leave. You said you wouldn’t. You promised you’d always love me. Why the fuck did you leave!

You were too demanding, Karen. It always had to be your way. Why couldn’t you just give in some times! Why couldn’t you just, I don’t know, go with the flow.

Screw you, Mark. Now you tell me this. All that time, you told me that you loved me for who I was and now?

I still love you, and always will. You need time to understand yourself.

Fuck! Understand what?

You’re too angry. I understand why, but my staying here’s not gonna help us, or you. You need to sort it out yourself and...

“Jesus Christ, when’s someone going to fucking come!” Karen gasped, fought to sit up and bring her breath under control. Her pulse rate was increasing, as was her breathing.

“God help me,” she cried to herself.

“Yes! God will help,” he said, sensing an opening.

“God will help stop your suffering,” he said. “God will stop your pain,” he said smiling.

Captain Stafford’s breathing was now uncontrolled. She could feel unconsciousness taking hold.

“No,” she cried. “Not yet. Please! God please.”

The prisoner sat up. It was not long now. She would die, and he would not need to lift a finger. God has done my work for me.

Then, her breath slowed and she became quiet so suddenly as she lay there that the prisoner briefly thought she had died. He smiled, and nodded.

“God have mercy on your...”

“Think,” she said in a shallow voice, “for yourself.”

“What!” She clings to life, he thought to himself. It is a weakness that she does not wish to embrace the after.

“Think,” she repeated. “Smell the sweetness. See the beauty.”

Stafford smiled as she remembered the winter she made a snow angel next to “feel the warmth.”

“Hear the...”

“Let God take you,” he said softly. “Let him take and judge you for your sins.”

She could have become quite angry at that statement, but she was not. She realized that the only one she needed to answer to was the one who understood. Mark doesn’t care, she thought to herself. Very slowly, Karen lifted her head and smiled.

“For yourself, smell. Feel, see and hear. More important, think... for yourself. After... if you stand by me, I’ll stand by you ‘till my last breath.”

They both looked at each other a few seconds, until the prisoner’s anger erupted. “Satan’s words.”

Karen smiled. “Stand by me,...”

She continued to look his way as she felt her limbs numbing. “...and I will stand by you to the last breath.” Stafford closed her eyes.

The soldier sat there a minute, expecting her to move again, but when she didn’t, he knew she was finally gone. He winced as he moved to take the soldier’s knife. She hadn’t noticed just how badly he too was wounded, which was a good thing, he thought.

“May God have mercy on you,” he said. In truth though, he thought God would be harsh on her, a non-believer. In fact, her comments on feeling, seeing and smelling bordered on the Satanic. Even thinking was questionable. People think, and should think about most things, but God has set aside things that should not be questioned. This body of a woman must be pitied for being led astray.

He looked out the window and breathed in the breeze brushing through the torn curtain. God is indeed great, he thought, as he watched the child outside; was he walking or hurrying home?

He collected the woman’s weapons and ammunition. His own soldiers will need these. Then, checking the room once more, he made for the door. He could not move fast for his injuries. In fact, he could barely walk at all. Bit by bit, as he neared the door, he noticed the room gradually get darker; clouds?

He stopped to look back out the window to notice that it was dark outside too. Clouds, he said to himself and smiled. He had begun to fear that he was losing consciousness. He turned to continue, and and then stopped.

Before him, where the door should have been, was a wall. Maybe he had turned too far? He looked left, and then right, but the door was gone. He turned, but the window too had vanished. Was that fear he felt? He’s never afraid!

He rushed to where the window should have been, touched the wall, and then raise the rifle he had taken from the fallen soldier to slam and break whatever barrier had been put in its place; not even a chip off the wall. His breath quickened as his fear rose. He wasn’t afraid of dying. Why so afraid, he thought to himself.

He walked along the wall, feeling for any crack that might betray a way out. Frustrated, confused and frightened, he stepped away from the wall, and then froze. His hands tightened around the rifle, and quickly as he could, he turned to face the way of the fallen soldier.

There, hunched over her, stood a figure muttering some words he could not hear to understand.

Let me out, he shouted with his rifle raised and pointed.

All are welcomed here, even if misguided, said the Other.

What? What are you saying, shouted the soldier. Let me out or I will shoot!

You don’t recognize me?

You are one of them, shouted the soldier. Let me out!

The Other smiled, and raised his hands. I am unarmed, and the one you seek, and yet you wish to shoot me.

The soldier raised the rifle to shoulder level. In God’s name I will, if you do not open the door!

The Other’s smile faded as he lowered his hands, and he made his way toward the soldier, who could not understand why he could not shoot.

What is wrong with a woman's voice as she sings, demanded the Other. What is wrong with song for the singing if not for the god?

The soldier breathed quickly, and the rifle weighed heavy on his arms. He was powerless to shoot, so he lowered it.

The Other’s scowl was as cutting as the thunder of his voice. What is wrong with the wealth of your kin, so long as that wealth does not impinge. You say there is nothing but god, but I say there is nothing but Life and Renewal!

THERE IS NOTHING BUT LIFE, shouted the Other, and the soldier dropped to his knees.

Go away Satan! I deny you. God, help me fight. Help me fight you ... fight for you...

You've made me look like this, shouted the other. The soldier looked up and immediately looked away in terror. The Other had changed into something terrible; indescribable. Do you want me to look like this, he shouted.

The soldier cowered at the Other’s feet and tried to recite the prayers he learned as a child as best he could, considering his terror.

The Other’s voice softened. Maybe it is better for you that I look like this, he said. Look up.

The soldier slowly looked up at the man figure he saw before, which relaxed him, if only a little.

Your females... women understand some of this, but only because they are subject to the forces of their bodies when giving birth. No, I'm not god. I'm a representative of that space inside your head that you think is occupied by your god of gods.

You can’t understand this. You don’t want to understand this right now, but you will. In time. It is your time, smiled the Other, and he kneeled down to the level of the frightened soldier. What did you think I was doing with the Garden. It was such a beautiful place. It is a beautiful place.

The Other gently touched the soldier’s forehead, smiled, and then moved his hand to the soldier’s shoulder. The soldier neither flinched, nor moved. The Other nodded, stood and walked away. The soldier, with his hands tied behind his back had been dead a while. He had died barely a minute after the woman, which is where the Other now looked.

He tilted his head slightly as he looked at her, and she moved.

The devil loves you, he said.

What... oh... ahh, what! She inhaled deeply and looked at the smiling figure that stood looking back. She felt comforted until he spoke again.

The devil loves you, he said.

She was hunched but now straightened herself, looked around the room and noticed all the damage that had been done there. It had been a fierce battle, or was it and explosion, and she last remembered speaking with her prisoner. The body lay propped against the wall under the window across the room, his hands still tied behind his back. It was exactly as she remembered before blacking out.

Where’s my backup! Where’s my unit! She looked up at the man standing before her. He was dressed in a white robe, the style traditional for the region. Actually, it was a style traditional for the style of clothing she read about in the holy books of her childhood, but was that coincidence? She could not decide whether to worry, or be comforted. The Other did speak her language, perfectly, but he looked different.

The devil loves you, he said again in a soft voice.

Why do you keep saying that, demanded the soldier as she tried to reach for her rifle. If she could only pick it up, she could defend herself.

As she looked at the Other, splotches of red appeared all over his robe as if he were bleeding profusely from every part of his body, and then spread until no portion of his robe remained white and a pool of blood collected at his feet.

What’s going on, she demanded as her fear quickly grew. What’s...

How can one trust a zealot, shouted the Other, and she recoiled from the rifle she was trying to reach. Not even fighting off the most hateful of foes could have prepared her for this. She had never been the subject of such rage.

Who in hell are you, a fool, to judge the actions of a fool, the Other growled pacing side to side. The soldier sat motionless in absolute fear as she looked up at the beast. It had a goat’s head and it walked on two massive backward-bent legs. On its massive hands were long fingers tipped with claws larger and more menacing than any she seen on the most ferocious of predators.

Hal...Hallucina..., she whimpered.

ZEALOT! Shouted the Other. The walls shook as if a mortar shell had just struck the ground outside. The beast snorted, shriveled it’s face in disgust, and the ground shook with every step of its hoofed feet as it paced from side to side. The Other turned, reached out with it’s massive claws and lunged at the soldier, who did not move. He stopped short. The terrified thing was too frightened even to scream, and he lowered his hands, kneeling down before her.

Feel, see, think, smell, he said gently. Harm not unless be harmed. Stand by me. I will stand by you until your last breath. You have made me look like this. He tilted his head when she dared look into his red animal eyes.

How would you rather see me, he asked, but she did not answer. How could she even begin to answer. She could barely even breathe. The other smiled knowingly, and briefly covered her eyes with his hand. When he removed his hand, she looked up at the man in white robe from before, smiling back.

You make me look like another thing, and then you want me to look like this, he said with a reassuring smile. There is nothing but life, and renewal while you all try convince one another of your words without action. You don’t understand this. You can’t understand it, but you will understand it in time.

He placed his gentle hand on her shoulder and nodded. Feel, see, think, smell. It is your time. He walked away as her fellow soldiers stood around her, and some others darted from body to body. Stafford and her crew had managed to pacify the room quite quickly, but after they all entered the room, one of the wounded set off an explosive that killed everyone, though not instantly. What a mess, thought the Captain to himself. A corporal frantically dialed his cell, trying to contact command for orders and direction, but the others knew there was nothing to be done. One knelt down at Stafford’s side and cried as he touched her uniform. They heard her calls for backup, and she died in the twenty minutes it took them to secure the streets around the building.

The soldiers did not see the Other move among them, eventually vanishing through the wall. How could they see him. They were not ready yet. Maybe tomorrow.